It was welcome news that voters for the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame could put all the extraneous circumstances behind them and vote Barry Bonds into the Hall of Fame.
This is a special honor for Bonds because his Bay Area roots go deep. He grew up going to schools down the Peninsula before he went away to college at Arizona State. His father played for the Giants for part of his career and his godfather, Willie Mays, played for the Giants for virtually his entire career, including 14 years in San Francisco after the move west, with the Dodgers, that finally made baseball truly a national game.
Bonds should be in the baseball Hall of Fame, too, but many of the writers voting are in a moralistic mood and see Bonds as the face of the Steroids Era.
Frankly, I wish there were no steroids at all in sports, especially in football — where they have been a huge factor in the many serious injuries, especially concussions, which are a serious danger to the future of the sport.
Their impact on baseball is much less clear, but writers and fans (too often they are the same people) are upset because of their impact on records. Well, bad news, people: Records really don’t mean much. They’ve been manipulated through the years. The best example is the Depression years of the 1930s. Owners were desperate to get people back to the parks, so they had the baseball livened up with tighter wrapping and offensive statistics were off the wall. There are hitters from that era who are in the Hall simply because of inflated stats.
Because baseball is really a game of individuals, it’s also difficult to determine who has the advantage when both the pitcher and hitter are taking steroids, which certainly has happened over the years.
What we do know about Bonds is that he was a great all-around player in his younger days, hitting for average and power, stealing bases and an outstanding defensive left fielder who compensated for his weak arm by charging balls hit to the outfield and making quick throws.
Bonds was named Player of the Decade by The Sporting News. If he’d retired at that point, he would have been a first-ballot choice for the Hall of Fame. But as a newspaper colleague of mine told me, “But then he cheated.”
Oh, my. Must be the first time anybody in baseball did that. Well, not exactly. Baseball has a long history of cheating, often by changing the playing conditions — the Giants were accused of watering down the basepaths by the speedy Kansas City Royals runners in the World Series. Altering the playing field has long been a favorite, either to make bunts roll foul or stay fair, depending on the strength of a home team. Spies have been put in bleachers with binoculars to steal signals.
Individual players? Gaylord Perry is in the Hall because Bob Shaw taught him how to throw a spitball, which is, yes, illegal.
Some day, baseball writers may come to their senses but in the meantime, Bonds can be pleased that BASHOF voters already have.
Glenn Dickey has been covering Bay Area sports since 1963 and also writes on www.GlennDickey.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.